Case Study: On the Right Foot
Checklist for the car wash: align the wheels, windows up and...snorkels on? That’s just a typical day at JJ’s Express Oil Change and Car Wash. Their colorful car wash experience is a travel destination in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, popular with children and a delightful distraction from pandemic woes.
“It’s like a fun carnival ride,” co-owner Jamille Taylor says, “It’s so fun to watch kids go through.”
“They wear snorkels and goggles,” sister and co-owner Jacoba Taylor adds.
This new generation of car wash has gained popularity in the North American market, featuring bright colors, large signage and lighted fluids. Before they opened there was nothing like it in their hometown.
Like all operators in the wash and lube industry, JJ’s experienced a ramp-up period. Unlike most operators, that period came during a global pandemic, but these operators rose to the challenge. This case study follows a new business as it positioned itself for profitability in challenging conditions.
JJ’s, named for the Taylor sisters, isn’t their first family business. Their parents ran a cement company. After they sold it, they wanted to find something new they could do together.
“We’ve always been a part of business with our parents, it’s something we always wanted to have,” Jamille says.
They knew how to work well as a family, but it took a lot of work to get the business constructed, operating, and marketed in 2020. The sisters were highly involved in the decision-making process and oversaw every financial aspect of the new build.
“Suddenly we were working 12-hour days, six days a week, but we have all worked together for so long, we knew how to manage, which is nice,” Jacoba says.
That was just the beginning. From there, they needed to generate buzz around the new service at a time when people were suspicious of in-person business transactions.
Stay focused through setbacks.
Jamille and Jacoba decided to begin construction of JJ’s Express in 2020. The pandemic severely impacted the construction and the opening of their new business.
“It impacted our opening date,” Jamille says. “It was originally supposed to open in September, and it got pushed back until March. The biggest issue was that it was tough to get the materials to build. There were delays with illness, with missing equipment. It was a whole ordeal.”
“We’re lucky,” Jacoba adds. “ Other businesses have had their struggles, we’re lucky we could open at all during COVID and we’re lucky we could keep employees and customers safe.”
One factor in their favor was that the business model allowed them to launch with safe COVID-19 precautions in place. Customers remained in their vehicles, properly distanced, which helped to prevent further delays.
Get the name out.
After JJ’s opened in March 2021, business took off right away.
“It was surprising how busy we got right away,” Jamille says. “It was a unique chance during the pandemic to get out, see people, talk to others. We were hearing people were driving an hour out of their way.”
They also received some local media attention to help marketing efforts. The Saskatoon Star Phoenix featured JJ’s Express on its local business website, and interest in the operation exploded.
“After that article came out, we got TV and radio news stations to reach out to us,” Jamille says. “It’s been rewarding. Very cool.”
Leverage unique aspects to attract crowds.
The Taylor sisters’ business brought a new element to the local market, setting them apart from other similar services. Additionally, they were able to customize the build to anticipate the needs of the local clientele.
“We have conveyor belts on the floor, we have two regular bays but we also have one bigger bay with tall overhead clearance,” Jamille says. “That’s because our demographic is that you’ll see more trucks than cars. It helps us reach customers that might get turned away elsewhere that have RVs, farming trucks, trailers, or just need a higher height limit.”
On the quick lube side, the pair opted for a premium oil supply—full synthetics and blends.
The business model also helped the business ramp up with new hires. While employees faced layoffs or hiring freezes at other businesses, JJ’s Express had open arms. They also focused on younger hires who hadn’t yet been in the workforce.
“We hire a lot of people for their first job,” Jamille says. “Seeing them grow, having fun and learning with us at the same time. We’re also working with Saskabilities, and about eight employees a month for a work program. They organize employees who have autism. It gives them a chance to be social and to be around other people and not be stuck at home.”
Getting started at the tail end of a pandemic seemed like an incredible challenge, but the business model and the hard work of the Taylors helped to make it a success.
The operators paid close attention to the construction, and while most residents were indoors and looking for a distraction, they launched a savvy marketing campaign to get their name out—both for customers and potential new hires.
With strong car counts thus far, the sisters are confident about the future.
Going into their first winter, the Taylor sisters feel optimistic.
“We’re facing our first winter, but we’re averaging so many cars a day,” Jacoba says. “We feel we have a strong business model to sustain that. If things go how we intend them to be, we may look at expanding to more locations soon.”
The short-term goal is to grow a regional network and serve their market.
“We want to keep it local, ideally have one to three locations total, but we’ll keep it in the family,” Jamille says.